Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Whitney Award Nominations

by Rebecca Talley

Don't forget to nominate your favorite books by LDS authors for Whitney Awards. Nominations will end at midnight December 31, 2008.

If you've read a great work of fiction by an LDS author, please nominate it for a Whitney Award.

The Whitney Awards were first instituted for books published in 2007 in an effort to recognize excellence by LDS authors. Finalists will be announced in mid-January and winners will be announced at the Whitney Awards Gala following the LDStorymaker Conference April 24-25, 2009.

You can view the list of books eligible for a Whitney Award at LDSPublisher or at Write Bravely. You can also view eligible books by members of LDStorymakers here.

So, go now, and nominate a book or two!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wa-Hoo! I'm Finished- Sort of

By Christine Thackeray

The writing process is an interesting one. It begins with an idea. Sometimes it's an experience from my childhood or a great piece of gossip. Sometimes it's a strange character that makes me laugh or something I've read the I don't agree with and want to change. With any luck that idea then expands into a story arc.

Once the concept of the story is solidified, I begin writing. The dishes pile up, the laundry barely gets done and I write. Necessities are still taken care of, children are hugged and fed but everything else must wait while the story emerges.

When the last word is written, there is a huge feeling of success. That happened this morning for me. I finished my manuscript "An Angel In the Family." I did my happy dance and emailed out the draft to six of my closest friends and now, I've just begun.

The truth is, I have finished very little. I've only begun the editting process. Then I have to try to sell it to a publisher, and it goes through another edit, and then I try to breath life into the market by begging for reviews, blogging about it and telling everyone that will listen what a great book it is.

But for today, I will pretend I've actually finished something. After all I wrote the words "The End"- Wa-Hoo!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What the Savior's Birth Means to Me

by Rebecca Talley

On December 19, 1968 I awoke early and told my father goodbye as he left for work. I even rushed to my bedroom window to watch his car leave our cul-de-sac and drive along the road out of our subdivision. I didn't usually wake up early to see my father off, but I did that day.

My mother took my baby sister and me Christmas shopping. We ended up at my grandmother's house later that day to spend the night. Long after we'd gone to bed, I was awakened by the ringing of the telephone. Though I was quite young, I realized that the late-night phone call meant my life would never be the same. My father's mortal existence had ended in a mangled heap of a car on a dark, unlit road. He was such a young man filled with so much life and vitality. He'd hardly had a chance to live. He had a promising career, a beautiful wife, and two young daughters. His funeral was on Christmas Eve.

Every year I think about my father and his short life. I think of what could have been and, of course, I wish this story had a different ending. But, I also find great hope and comfort as I celebrate the birth of the Savior. Because Jesus was born into mortality, willingly chose to lay down his life, and was then resurrected, so too will my father (and my mother, my grandparents, my father-in-law, other family members, and my friends) be resurrected. The birth and life of the Savior means that I will someday be reunited with my father and all of those I've loved and lost.

The Savior's birth makes it possible for me to someday have the family I didn't have in mortality. Yes, it's been hard not having my parents. Yes, it makes me sad that they both died before they could see and know my children in mortality. Yes, I've often wished to build a time machine to go back and know my parents. But, in the eternal scheme of things, time is only relative. The significance of the birth of Jesus transcends time and heals the aching heart.

His birth means that I can have an eternal family and that brings me incredible peace and joy.

A Christmas Story

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I just wanted to share the story I wrote for a Christmas Story Contest on LDS Publisher. Merry Christmas!!!
A Real Baby in the Manger
By Christine Thackeray

“They’re at it again.” Brother Fortner adjusted his royal robes and rolled his eyes.

I huffed, putting down my clipboard. “Those darn shepherds, what is it this time?”

The entire cast of almost one hundred people was shivering under their sewn up sheets at the dress rehearsal of our live nativity. This event had become a wonderful tradition for over twenty years running, and the entire town looked forward to coming on the Saturday before Christmas to watch the Mormon pageant. It was a great missionary tool, using the talents and resources from all three wards in our building. The angels sang in perfect harmony and the three kings wore lavish costumes with gifts of real myrrh and frankincense. We even had a real donkey that behaved beautifully-- if only I could say the same thing about the shepherds.

In the past it had always been an ‘adults only’ experience, but for some reason this year the Bishop had gotten the idea to use the sixteen-year-old priests as shepherds. It was a huge mistake. Everyone else took their parts seriously, but the shepherds had spent most of their time joking around or pulling pranks. They had sort of devolved into their own shepherd gang with my son as the ringleader.

As I quickly rounded the corner where the boys were supposed to be waiting for their cue, I nearly fell on my face. Josh had been holding his crook out to intentionally trip me. I barely caught myself and turned to face him, “What are you thinking? This isn’t funny.”

The three other boys held in their snickers while Josh shook his head, “It wasn’t supposed to be for you. Ty had asked Bro. Fortner to come over…”

“Listen, you guys, I am serious. This play is important and I want to see you change your attitudes.”

“Mom, we don’t even want to be here. You can fire us and we won’t mind.” The other boys nodded their heads in agreement.

I looked at them and took a deep breath. “The pageant is tomorrow. Please, I beg of you, just behave for one more day.”

Ty shook his head, “This is stupid.”

“It is so sad you can’t see what we are doing here.” I said to him and then turned to all the boys. “If you try to feel the spirit of this event and remember what we are celebrating, you might get something out of this.”

I walked away feeling hopeless. When the shepherds started poking the ugly doll in the manger, I let them go home early and we finished the dress rehearsal without them.

The next day the weather was not cooperating. It rained all day. The cold gray added to the dread that filled my heart every time I thought about the manger scene and those darn shepherds. As we started loading everyone in the car to head over for the performance, I cornered Josh in the garage.

“Honey, please, can you…”

“Mom, stop,” Josh shook his head. “I’m going to this stupid thing for you but the truth is I don’t even want to be part of it. All the guys feel that way.”

“But, Josh, we are celebrating Christ’s birth. This is important.”

“Is it?” My son clamped his mouth shut.

I looked at him seriously. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Josh ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just not feeling it this year. Don’t you ever wonder if all this crap really happened or if it ‘s like some myth.”

“What are you saying?”

He shook his head, “Oh forget it. I’m doing it, aren’t I?”

My son’s words struck me with fear. He always attended church and seminary and had never mentioned doubting before. I looked at my watch and was already later than I should have been. I would have to deal with this later. Maybe this was the reason the Bishop had felt so impressed to include the boys, so I could face my son’s feelings. As I drove I said a silent prayer that somehow I could help to touch my son’s heart.

We pulled into the church parking lot as the sun was going down. With many willing hands, the costumes and makeup were complete and everyone was in place at the right time. My stomach was doing flip-flops and I wasn’t sure if it was more from the anticipation of the pageant or from my son’s words. I could see him laughing with his friends in the dim light and didn’t know what to do or say to him.

At that moment a young mother walked up to me. She held her infant in her arms. “Sister Adams? I don’t know why, but I want to ask if you would like to use my baby for the baby Jesus.”

“Usually we don’t use a real baby because of the cold and fear that they might cry.”

“I know.” The young mother bowed her head. “But are you sure? Sammy is a good baby and the night is so warm.”

She was right. I hadn’t noticed that the weather had turned. The sky was clear and I guessed it was probably almost sixty degrees, warmer than it had been all day. Suddenly I doubted my original reaction and took the small bundle. “Thank you.”

I gave the baby to the sister portraying Mary just moments before the performance began and stood on the sidelines watching the story unfold, while the shepherds seemed oblivious to what was happening under the floodlights on the lawn before hundreds of people watching on blankets and lawn chairs.
Mary rode on the donkey with a caring Joseph. The couple were turned away over and over again until one kind innkeeper led them to the stable. There amid the animals, Mary held her new baby and laid him in a manger.

The lights cut out and suddenly a spotlight danced across the shepherds who were swaggering around at the back of the lawn. When the light shone on the angel, they pantomimed extreme shock with a comical attitude that brought chuckles from the audience. Once the full choir appeared, they stole the show by one of them full out fainting. I shook my head in frustration.

The angels finished their musical number which was beautiful and Josh stood and said, “Let us go and see where the child lay.” He said it with a flat meaningless tone that made me cringe. The boys walked in unison across the lawn as though they were in a music video, moving their shoulders and hips from side to side. I covered my face and didn’t want to look but peeked through two of my fingers.

As they came to the stable, they each looked and then did a double take. Josh fell to his knees, followed by his friends. They bowed their heads in rapt silence and the angels began to sing. I lowered my hands and felt the Spirit fill my heart. The sudden change seemed to affect the entire audience and the power of that scene made the reality of Christ’s birth and life once again shine in my heart.

The pageant ended and people flocked forward to congratulate everyone in the cast. Many said it was the best one we had done and more than one person mentioned the shepherds and how they had been so touched by their performance.

Late that night I finally got in the car where Josh was waiting for me. Before I turned the key in the ignition, he reached out and touched my arm. “Mom?”

“Yes.” I turned to him and couldn’t read the look on his face.

“That was awesome.”

“You did an incredible job, by the way. When you knelt before the manger, people said they felt like they were there. I never knew what an incredible actor you were.”

“I wasn’t acting.” Josh swallowed. “No one told me it was a real baby. I was expecting that dumb doll. When I walked up and saw the real baby- it totally caught me off guard and I fell to the ground. I realized that was how I was looking at the church. I was thinking it was something plastic and fake, not real. As I looked at the baby, I knew there was a real baby in Bethlehem all those years ago. There was a real Christ who died for me. It is real, you know?”

I looked at my teenage son with the light of conviction shining in his eyes. The sight of him doubting in the garage flickered in my mind and the difference was nothing short of a miracle. It hit me that this miracle happened because a living Christ reached out through an inspired bishop, a sensitive young mother and a simple manger bed to touch my son’s heart and change his life forever. I closed my eyes so grateful that Christ lives and loves us even now. Patting my son’s arm I blinked back the tears of joy from the corners of my eyes.

“I know, Josh. I know.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Early Christmas Treat and C. S. Lewis: Latter-Day Truths in Narnia

By Christine Thackeray

This spring my sister and I worked feverishly together getting out our non-fiction book about C.S. Lewis before she left to go on her mission with her husband and children in Brazil. We had some nice reviews when it first hit the stores but just this week I got an early Christmas treat. T. Lynn Adams reviewed it on Bella Online and I wanted to share what she had to say.

Review of C.S. Lewis, Latter-day Truths in Narnia

I read the Chronicles of Narnia as a child and still recall wondering as a child what it must feel like to ride a flying lion. Later, during various conference talks, I fell in love with the quotes of a wonderful thinker named C.S. Lewis. How excited I was to learn that the man who wrote fantasy for children also penned philosophy. I remember wondering if he was LDS. Between flying lions and soaring thoughts, C.S. Lewis has held a special place in my literary world.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. At a recent Stake Conference I was listening to a speaker quote C.S. Lewis when I noticed a man toward the front nodding enthusiastically. Afterwards I approached the brother and said, “You’re a C.S. Lewis fan, aren’t you.” He was surprised by my observation. “How did you know?” he asked. I told him his enjoyment of the C.S. Lewis quotes, nodding in agreement as the speaker read them, gave him away.

It’s fun to find another true Lewis fan.

That is why I loved book C.S. Lewis: Latter-day Truths in Narnia, by Marianna Richardson and Christine Thackeray. This book compiles into one place so many things LDS readers have quietly nodded over in agreement.

The book, published by Cedar Fort, is divided into three sections and three appendices. The first section contains his life history, (no, he is not LDS) his conversion story (he was once an atheist), and a brief look at his entry into writing.

The section reviews some of his fictional writings, pointing out Latter-day truths and gospel principles woven into the stories.

The third section, my favorite, “examines some of the most notable references to C.S. Lewis by modern apostles and prophets.” Did you know that C.S. Lewis was quoted by Neal A. Maxwell in the very first issue of the New Era? Or that the Prophet Ezra Taft Benson quoted C.S. Lewis in his masterpiece address, Beware of Pride, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10; quoted in Ensign, May, 1989)

The appendices show LDS references to some C.S. Lewis quotes organized by topic, by speaker and finally by lesson material.

From pride to the role of women and the importance of family through to the eternities, the authors of this book note that C.S. Lewis had a way to pen words that “are easy to understand, almost simplistic. Yet there is a deeper meaning that causes one to pause and think more profoundly.”

“His voice,” they write “has an ‘every man’ quality, as though he is struggling beside us, which enables people of all kinds to relate to his message. But along with his personal weaknesses and trials, C.S. Lewis openly witnesses time and again of his personal faith in Christ as both a partner in helping us overcome our challenges in this life and as our Savior in giving us the opportunity to share in His glory in the next. It is this powerful testimony of the Savior that rings true to members of the Church.”

Another reason I enjoyed the book was not just the collection of C.S. Lewis gems but they also incorporated comments by General Authorities. It's like a compilation of your favorite authors. Furthermore, Richardson and Thackeray, write powerfully as well and I found myself underlining just as many of their comments, words and impressions as the masters they were discussing. Hurray for them! My book is filled with personal markings, underlining, margin notes and even my own hand-written index in the front of the book to help me reference favorite quotes in the future.

This would be a great book to give to yourself or others. When you give it though, make sure you include a marking pen. I quarantee this book will be marked, underlined, written on and dog-earred by every avid C.S. Lewis fan who gets it.

If you want to have more fun with it, wrap it up with a copy of the Chronicles of Narnia, a copy of Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters, or even the new Prince Caspian DVD.

Just don’t forget that marking pen!

A Legend in My Own Time

by Shirley Bahlmann
I didn't know I was a legend until last Tuesday when I sat in front of Snow College Professor Bruce Peterson at my son's school Christmas program. Between songs, Peterson leaned forward and tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up from my book (which I read between songs) to see him smiling down at me. "Do you know what I remember about you?" he asked.
Now that was a loaded question if I ever heard one! So many possibilities ran through my brain that I was dizzy when I answered, "No. What?" I wondered if there were any other seats I could move to in the jam-packed gymnasium once he revealed some terrible deed of my past.
"You were reading a paperback book in a college class. When the teacher called on you to answer a question, you looked up, answered it, and went right back to reading."
"Oh," I said, not specifically remembering the incident.
"The teacher stood there with his mouth open," Peterson laughed. "I was amazed. The whole class was. I didn't even know the answer, and I'd been listening. So now, every year I tell my students about you, and say that they can do whatever they want as long as they're getting the information. If they can answer the questions, then they can read or draw or listen to music or whatever. But if they can't, then they have to do it my way."
"You tell all your classes about me?" I asked, my eyebrows disappearing into my hairline.
"Yeah. I just thought that was so great when you did that. You taught me that everyone learns differently."
"Cool," I said. "Thanks for telling me." Then I turned around, my eyes falling on the sweet adventure of the written word.
It's really kind of exciting that you never know when you'll do something that impacts someone else. I just happened to find out because I was just being my weird self, reading books in my spare time everywhere I go.
Sometimes I'll sing a bit of song in the grocery store. Sometimes I do high kicks when I'm walking down the street. I don't know why. But if you ever see an urban setting and people on the street break out into a series of random high kicks, then you'll know that Shirley has achieved legend status once again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jack Frost Snow Day

by Rebecca Talley

Yesterday we had a snow day because the storm dumped about 8 inches at our house and even more in town. Snow days are rare in our school district so we decided to make the most of the day off.

We bundled up, found our sleds, and went sledding on the hill behind our house. The kids all had a great time playing in the snow. My youngest didn't enjoy the snow so much but he endured it. My four-year-old grabbed a sled and went down the hill by herself. She screamed all the way down and laughed when she crashed into a pile of powder. We had snowball fights and chased each other in the snow.

When we were all plenty soggy we trudged into the house to warm up by the fire. I made chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate with whipped cream. We then watched Christmas movies for the rest of the day, including Jack Frost with Michael Keaton and Kelly Preston.

I love Jack Frost even though it makes me cry every single time I watch it. If you haven't seen it, you should. I love, love, love the ending. It was a perfect movie to end a perfect day.

I don't understand why my kids all moaned and groaned when they had to go to school today :).

Vote for your favorite Christmas story

by Lee Ann Setzer

Want some good Christmas writing and a chance to let your voice be heard? Hurry over to


to read—and vote on—Christmas stories by published and unpublished authors. Stories are posted anonymously, so you're voting strictly on quality, not on the author's popularity.

If you're not familiar with LDSP, she is an anonymous commentator on general and LDS-specific publishing, and well worth reading.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Contrary to what I said earlier...

Every now and then, eating your words just isn’t that painful.

I mock the weather often in hopes that it’ll prove me wrong and do something totally unexpected—like dump a whole 1/16 inch of snow on our lovely city of St. George. Yesterday it snowed here from 9 am to 8 pm. I hear that the surrounding communities—those at a slightly higher elevation, got inches of snow—even up to eighteen inches in Silver Reef. That should keep our one snow plow busy for a week!

All this brings back memories of my childhood here in southern Utah. Snow was rare, and when it did accumulate enough to cover the grass, that was really something special. As children, we had building snowmen down to a science. You had to have at least 1 inch of snow to build a small snowman, and at least 3 inches to build a big one. The most important rule was that you must never, ever mess up the snow in the front yard (any more than you had to, anyway). We’d only use snow from the back yard to build the snowman. First you’d scrape off the top layer of snow and set that aside. Then with the bottom layer, you’d build your snowman—which always ended up with dirt clods and dead leaves and grass stuck to him. You’d carefully roll the pieces around to the front yard, where you’d carry them to the middle of the lawn and place them one on top of the other to build the snowman. Then you’d get your clean snow (set aside earlier, remember?) and pat it over the dirty snow. Last of all, you’d make a flying leap from the snowman to the front porch to keep from stepping on any more snow.

Then the hard part would begin as you’d defend your yard from all the neighborhood kids who wanted to steal your snow to make snowmen of their own—but that’s another story.

(You think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.)

So even though I moved to sunny southern Utah to get out of the snow, I was excited to see it yesterday. For one thing, it’s still a novelty to me. And for another, I know that it won’t stick around long enough to create that slushy, brown, slippery mess that hangs around for months in colder parts of the country. So snow is good. :)

New Down Syndrome Website

by Rebecca Talley

For those of you who've read my personal blog before you know that I have a son with Down syndrome. It doesn't bother me at all that he has an extra chromosome. He's absolutely adorable, he's healthy, and he's full of fun and life. I've known for years he was coming to my family, though I didn't know he'd have DS. But, I knew he'd be coming at some point. I have no doubt at all that he was meant to be in my family and every day I am so grateful for him, just as I am so grateful for each of my children.

What does bother me about DS is the attitude of others. When my grandfather (who is now deceased) found out a friend of mine was having a child with DS he said, "Can she get rid of it?" (translation: can she abort the baby so she doesn't have to be bothered with it?). For whatever reason, our society seems to think that unless you're perfect, you don't matter. The fallacy in that line of thought is that no one is perfect. We all have struggles and we all have problems. Is it worse to not read at grade level or to throw away an education? Is it worse to not understand sarcasm or to give it so freely no one knows when you're serious? Is it worse to love everyone regardless or to only choose a few select individuals to love?

In the eternal scheme of things, who's really handicapped?

In an effort to change some attitudes and maybe, just maybe, make the world a little better place for my son and the 350,000 Americans (with 5000 more babies born each year) with DS, I've created a new website. I want to show the world that having a child with DS is an honor and a privilege and, in reality, isn't much different than having other children.

The website address is www.downsyndromeassociation.org.

My hope is to turn it into a much larger site complete with a forum so people can come to a safe place (no judging allowed) and ask questions. I'm still working on that aspect, but for now I'd appreciate any input or comments to help me improve it. And, please, pass the link to anyone that might be interested.

Thank you for helping me to change one attitude at a time :).

Monday, December 15, 2008

The First Snow

by Rebecca Talley

I love sitting by the fire, listening to Christmas music, sipping hot chocolate, and watching the snow fall softly to the ground.

It doesn't snow here every year for Christmas. In fact, most years it's dry ground. The first snow of the season always seems to be magical and when it happens to be close to Christmas, it seems to make it even more so.

I love to hear the crunch of my footsteps or see the glittering blankets as the sunlight dances across the fields. I love the tingle of snow on my tongue and the crisp, fresh air that nips at my nose and ears.

Newly-fallen snow makes everything seem so clean and pure.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow . . . .

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Joy: Outsmarting My Kids

by Rebecca Talley

On Wednesday I spent the entire day wrapping Christmas presents. My fingers were numb and my eyes were bulging out of my head. My kids had informed me that it wasn't at all like Christmas because there weren't any gifts under the tree. They wanted me to wrap the presents and put them all under the tree so they could . . . squeeze them, shake them, count them, and otherwise snoop.

Usually I spend all this time trying to be sneaky buying the gifts and then spend even more time wrapping them and placing them nicely under the tree. And, day after day, the gifts are all rearranged. I can always tell which kid was the last to snoop by where the presents are placed. Year after year, I ask them to please leave the presents alone so nothing gets broken or accidentally unwrapped. And, year after year, they ignore my request.

So this year . . . I outsmarted them. Instead of putting their names on the presents, I put numbers on them. Yep, I actually wrote a number on each gift and then put them under the tree. The kids' reactions were priceless. "Are you serious?", "No, way, numbers?", "Mom, you're killing us here." "I can't believe you put numbers on the presents." "I bet I can crack her code." "Let's just open all the presents and figure out whose is whose."

And, while they were all lamenting the numbers thing, I had a stroke of genius. Since my husband and I are completely worn out by Christmas and we're the ones (the kids are far too busy resting and/or playing with their Christmas gifts) that have to do all the cooking and preparing for the big family meal with my sister and her family, we have this ongoing argument with the kids about what time to get up on Christmas morning. The kids want to be up at 4:00--the only day in the entire year that they get up early voluntarily. We want 7:00 so we can get a few hours of sleep before the big festivities begin. So, I said, "And I won't give you the code for the numbers until after 7:00 am on Christmas Day."

Well, I might as well have said we weren't going to have Christmas at all by their reactions. The oldest kids were the worst. They all fell on the floor and whined and complained. Me? I just enjoyed every second of it because this is the first year in too many to count that I might be able to actually keep the gifts a secret until Christmas.

Besides, I haven't had this much fun in a long time! Christmas cheer is in full force at my house--at least for me :).

A Sorry Christmas Concert

By Christine Thackeray

As you each go to your children's Christmas concerts this time of year, I thought you'd get a kick out of this sad story. Last night we went to the Middle School Christmas Concert. At one point each set of instruments were introduced and played a little Christmas Carol.

First, the large flute section played "Angels We Have Heard on High." They were fabulous (but I may be a little prejudice- my daughter was among them.) Then the trumpets blared "The First Noel" and so on. Well, when it was time for the french horns there was only two of them. One girl was to play the melody of "Carol of the Bells" and a boy did the "ding, dong" counter melody.

They began and it was the most painfully horrible rendition I had ever sat through. If the girl hit a single note correctly I'd be surprised. The little boy playing the "ding dongs" was right on but couldn't figure out where she was in the piece because the notes she was playing weren't even recognizable. I was surprised that the director had forced both her and us to endure such torture.

After the concert my daughter told me that the little girl who played the french horn had worked very hard to get the part down perfectly, but had gotten braces the day before. Every note she played was agony as the instrument put pressure against her torn mouth and gums. Suddenly, the sound of the music totally changed in my mind. I was touched by her bravery and my heart went out to her. Once again I was reminded that when I see things I don't like or agree with, I should be careful not to judge quite so quickly.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Marketing Ideas

Every day I'm more convinced that our success, whether as authors, bookstores, or publishers, is tied directly to the internet. I haven't tracked our counter on this site, but I'm not sure we're seeing much traffic here. Please let me know what you think.

I appreciated Christine's post on Fair Use. There are some very good sites to get a good feel for it. And really that is all that is possible. The courts, in an effort to preserve free speech, have purposefully made the concept vague and as open as possible.

A number of decades ago I had discussions with the Church's legal counsel. I was advised that the church operates as much by how the laws are enforced as by what the law actually says. In practicality there isn't much else we can do as publishers and authors.

Back to promotion.

Steve Eunpu is currently promoting a new book, The Stress Eater Diet. As part of his promotion,
he is writing a blog to share a behind-the-scenes look at the steps he is taking in developing and marketing the book. He'll share his successes and failures, what works and what doesn't. It should be an interesting experiment. You can follow his progress in marketing the book at http://www.bestsellerornot.com.

This really looks like a lot of fun and useful information. Happy promoting.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Word on Copyright

By Christine Thackeray

Recently, I co-authored a book entitled "C.S. Lewis: Latter Day Truths in Narnia." It was a lot of work to create the project, but the most challenging part was getting copyright for the many Lewis quotes and church quotes it contained. I really got an education and would like to share some of what I learned.

First, the concept of "Fair Use" is a legal myth. Fair Use is not determined by word count but by the publisher. If you go to Eerdmans Website and click on contact us and then under Rights and Policies, they have their fair use guidelines posted, which are very generous. You can use up to 300 consecutive words with a total of up to 5000 without permission.

On the other hand, if you go to Harcourt, they clearly state that "Harcourt, Inc. requires written permission for all reproduction and/or adaptation of our published works." They not only don't have fair use guidelines, but I found they charge considerably more for even the smallest quote. The key is you need to check with the publisher to see what their guidelines are or paraphrase and footnote so copyright is not an issue.

As to the LDS church, they have very clear rules set forth on their website but the bottomline is you have to ask permission for anything more recent than 95 years before 1976 which is 1881. Which makes the scriptures public domain, as far as I understand.

The government has a very good publication on the subject here, if you want to brush up on the details.

Now the reality is that unless your book makes a ton of money or is extremely controversial, you may not be sued for your violation, but it is probably best to play it safe. The most important reason for this is that most publishers have clauses in their contracts that hold the author soley responsible for copyright violation.

So use the quotes you love freely, just remember to ask permission. Once you begin asking you will see that many publishers will allow you to quote for free and are happy that you cited them.


Winter has finally come to St. George.

The evidence is irrefutable: I had hard frost over about 75% of the back window of my car this morning. AND our thermometer read 31 degrees F. at 6:30 am. Wow.

Soon frost will sneak over the ground, making grass remnants and dirt clods go frozen and crunchy. Then things will get really bad: it’ll get so cold that I’ll probably have to start letting my car warm up for a few minutes before I leave for work. In a week or two, we could even start seeing snow in town—as it travels through on the tops of vehicles driving in from colder climes, like Cedar City. I may even have to dig out my heavy coat.

But still, I’ll endure the cold for the sake of Christmas. After all, it just wouldn’t be the holidays if it were too warm for hot chocolate.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Fuss Before Christmas

By Shirley Bahlmann
After Thanksgiving, I got right on track
Joining the troops for a shopping attack.
I started out happy, it was a fine day.
I had a long list, I was ready to pay.
But others were out with their shopping lists, too.
It was hard to find parking, the place was a zoo.
I managed to grab a nice Christmas ham,
But for vegetables there was just one shriveled yam.
The eggnog was missing, so prune juice instead,
With crackers and cheese to get the family fed.
With still lots of presents I needed to buy,
My feet started hurting. I wanted to cry.
The crowds were horrific, the tug of wars nasty.
They sweaters they fought over stretched out like taffy.
Toy shelves were sparse, with things that were broken
Or cheap knock off copies shipped in from Hoboken.
The clerks were all surly, the sizes all wrong.
The holiday music was sung from Hong Kong.
I finally gave up and dragged myself home.
I sat in a chair, tired clear to the bone.
I started to count all the things that I had.
If they weren’t all equal, someone might feel bad.
Well, Bradley had more things than dear little Sally.
I was short for my mother. I re-checked the talley.
I was all out of money, my credit was low.
But giving for Christmas was expected, so…
I heaved myself upward, I wasn’t yet free.
I stumbled outside past the Nativity.
Then I stopped and I turned. I stared at the child
The baby Jesus on hay that was piled
Inside a manger, the crudest of beds.
It was His birthday, yet where was my head?
Filled with the shopping, the giving, the getting,
The food I’d be feeding, the fussing and fretting.
It was His birthday. The gifts he received
Were just three in number on that Christmas Eve.
Three gifts for the Christ child, that’s all that he got.
His Christmas was simple, mine certainly was not.
I turned right around and marched back in my house.
I picked out three gifts for my children and spouse.
Three for my mother, three for my cousin.
Three was the number, not 3 or 4 dozen.
Then I made cookies from something called “scratch.”
When I taste-tested one, it was the best batch
I’d tasted since the Christmas party.
My fatigue was gone, my laughter was hearty.
To simplify Christmas was the best thing thought of.
To simplify Christmas was to emphasize love.

Just Picking Up a Few Books

By Christine Thackeray

So I happened to be in Utah for a day and a half this week in order to attend the sealing of my sweet nephew Joshua and his new wife Kensie. Amid the rush of half hour visits to aunts and siblings around the Wasatch Front, I squeezed in a quick stop at CFI. I was totally out of copies of my own book "Crayon Messages" and "C.S. Lewis: Latter Day Truths in Narnia" having sold or given away every one. While they got my books together, I meet Jennifer who is absolutely wonderful and then drifted to the back corner to browse through the discount books.

Now I knew my husband was waiting frantically in the car and my brother was waiting dinner for me in Pleasant Grove, but I was only going to be a minute and everything was such a great deal. I saw an interesting novel called "The Golden Verses" and its sequel and picked them both up. I grabbed a cute "Twelve Week Challenge" and shoved a Rachel Ann Nunes book under my arm. I had read a great review of "Spare Change" so I couldn't resist it. Steve Cramer's "Victory in Christ" and a very interesting looking "The Story of the Book of Abraham" were keepers as well. All in all I was pretty pleased with myself. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing for my husband who was ready to go.

Still, I love CFI and was again amazed at all the great books they produce.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Future Baker

Any guesses what my sweet, adorable, curious, and ever-so-innocent son did while my back was turned?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Family Traditions

by Rebecca Talley

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, we pull out all of our Christmas decorations, put on the Christmas tunes, and decorate our house for Christmas.

We used to trudge through the forest searching for that one, perfect tree—you know, with the light shining down from heaven and a chorus of angels singing. On two different occasions, I had newborns that I carried in a front pack as we hiked through the trees seeking the one that would have the honor of adorning our living room for the season. Year after year, we cut down our own tree despite the snow, rain, or complaints from small children that their legs were going to fall off.

Searching for the tree was usually so exhausting and took so long that some years we had to postpone the decorating until the next day. And, too many times to count, we reminded ourselves during the drive home that we had a tree on top of the vehicle and we should not drive into the garage. Yet, time after time, we’d forget and drive into the garage, wedging the tree between the top of the vehicle and the garage door. That became one of our traditions.

Unfortunately, a beetle infestation combined with several years of drought killed the majority of pinion trees in our area. We then decided we’d—gasp—buy an artificial tree in an effort to leave the live trees intact and allow for new tree growth. We may go back to cutting down our own tree when the forest has had a chance to regenerate itself, but by then it may be too difficult to maneuver our wheelchairs and canes through the forest.

Our family tradition of decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving has become an important part of our family’s memories and the kids look forward to it each year. My son, who recently returned home from his mission, has nicknamed the day, “The Talley Family Christmas Halapalooza.” He’s said many times how much he missed this tradition while he was away in Italy.

Traditions are an important part of our families. Kids look forward to traditions and see them as a constant in their ever-changing lives. No matter what, my kids know that instead of shopping on Black Friday, we’ll be putting up the Christmas tree, sipping hot chocolate, and watching, “Christmas Vacation.”

Of course, other traditions are even more important. Family scripture study, family home evening, and family prayer are all traditions that will not only strengthen our family here and now, they will bind us together for eternity.

When we were first married, we instituted a tradition of reading our scriptures together, reciting an Article of Faith, singing a hymn (usually a Primary song), and then saying our family prayer. It’s become such an integral part of our family that our kids won’t allow us to skip any part of it, even if it means we’re doing it at midnight.

Traditions that are grounded in the gospel will unite our families and draw us closer together. It’s never too late to start a family tradition.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm thankful for...

I don't know about you, but this has been a rather depressing month for me. I just haven't felt like posting at all, with everything that has happened in the nation and the world.

Then yesterday I was officially diagnosed with Celiac Sprue. Basically it means that I can’t eat gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, and perhaps oats, so it’s easy to see how avoiding gluten isn’t easy, and why Thanksgiving in particular might not be fun. It’s not just the rolls and stuffing I can’t eat; it’s the green bean casserole, the glazed ham, the pies, and even things like salad dressing and gravy.

Perhaps it should have been depressing, but the diagnosis actually had the opposite effect for me: it has made me strangely grateful. As some of you know, I’ve known for years that Celiac Disease or not, I don’t tolerate gluten at all. A diagnosis simplifies my life a lot; I no longer have to explain or try to justify my diet to doctors, waiters, or know-it-all family members. It’s actually kind of nice—in a sad I-can-never-have-pizza-again sort of way.

Anyway, it got me thinking of all I am thankful for: my family, a supportive husband, a stable job, plenty of food (gluten free, mind you), all those law school waivers which slashed the cost of applications, the basic life skills I’ve developed (you come to appreciate those pretty quick when you work as a college counselor…), friends, good books, kittens (so cute!), inventions like washing machines and grain mills, a comfortable house, holidays, little things like lotion and chapstick… Really, I have a lot to be grateful for. (Sorry, editors! I couldn’t think of another normal way to word the sentence.)

I wish I were better at remembering the good things in life rather than focusing on the bad, but I think I’m slowly improving. I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving week and can find plenty for which to be grateful. (Editors: how’s that?)


By: Shama Hyder (www.AftertheLaunch.com)
Use your real name. Save the company bit for the info section.
Use a picture that shows your face. Skip the silly goggles, hats, and political stickers. Show me who you are!
Create a twitter background that gives people a quick synopsis of who you are. Learn how to create your own here.
Share a link to your own blog posts.
Find a cool new tool? Share it. My latest find- The Jing Project.
Show gratitude.
Ask for help. (Anyone know why puppies love peanuts?)
Start a discussion!
Re-tweet important tweets. Re-tweeting is when you repeat what someone has already twittered. Best example of re-tweeting I saw was when a Portland twitter buddy’s daughter went missing! The twitter board lit up with re-tweets. She was found.
Share a pic. http://www.TwitPic.com
Post updates during conference time!
Report earthquakes and other natural disasters. Seriously-Twitter is faster than the Associated Press.
Help a Reporter Out. Just follow @SkyDiver for relevant tweets.
Brag about your clients. When they deserve it of course! One of our clients, K9Cuisine, personally delivered 24k pounds of food to the Houston SPCA after Hurricane Ike hit. Remarkable. Video here.
Build relationships with people you only run into once or twice at conferences.

Create an informal mastermind. I once heard of a few school teachers who used Twitter to share lesson plans and get feedback on challenges.

Quick Surveys! What do you like better? Posts with lists or paragraph type posts?
Make predictions.
Perform an act of kindness. When @Dalbee heard my twitter pleas for help navigating Boulder, he quickly asked @laurenpreston to pick me up from the airport. She also dropped me back!
Give and get Free stuff? No, seriously. Just ask @Aruni who scored a printer. And @DaveTaylor who scored free tickets to a Cirque show in Las Vegas.
Find product reviews. I never buy any big tech gadget before asking the pundits on Twitter to weigh in. Just don’t ask MAC or PC. The responses shut Twitter down!
Movie reviews! Just go to http://www.search.twitter.com and type in the name of a movie you are considering going to. Tada! Real time reviews. Also you can follow @FilmBuzz
Share a recipe! You can’t share food, so might as well share the recipe.
Review a product.
Find an intern!
Hire a new team member.
Get the scoop on a potential hire. Just search for their name at http://www.search.twitter.com.
Get the scoop on a date. Never done it myself but boy have I heard stories!
Find a great new restaurant. Just ask a local…or do a search!
Tweet-Ups. Meet up (physically!) with the people you twitter with.
Get customer service help- quicky! Network Solutions, Comcast, Zappos, Whole Foods, and Dogster are just some companies that come to mind who have a presence on Twitter. It’s ALMOST as cool as having a fairy Godmother.
Find JV partners.
Brag about a job well done by another company or individual. They WILL work harder for you, and appreciate the remarks. @MariSmith is one of our greatest fans on Twitter, and we adore her for it!
Find a job or a contract position.
Establish expertise by providing your expert opinion when called for.
Use it as a virtual water cooler. A lot of people on Twitter work from home, and appreciate the virtual water cooler.
Share hope and pride! This was a common theme during the election period.
Share tips. Swallowing a tablespoon of peanut butter cures hiccups.
Find new blogs to read and explore!
Connect with people across the globe.
Don’t post spam links. This serves no one. Remember, it’s just as easy to un-follow someone as it is to follow them.
Find speaking engagements. Definitely stalk @BlogWorld. Just kidding! Rick is just a fun guy to follow.
Find speakers for your events! Both speakers and event planners hang out on Twitter.
Share book reviews.
Find book reviews. More accurate than Amazon in my opinion!
Use cool tools like http://www.TweetLater.com to automate direct welcoming messages to new followers. Much like an auto responder. Use wisely!
Ask top bloggers your questions! @ProBlogger @JonathanFields @LizStrauss @BlogSquad are all on Twitter!
Get the scoop on local events. If you live in the DFW area, be sure to follow @LizMarshall @MarbleHead @Veribatim @CharlesMcKeever
Favorite tweets (by clicking on the star button to the right) that you want to follow up on later. Especially the ones that contain relevant links you think you don’t want to forget.
Tweet out your newsletter or eZine. Courtesy of Aweber! (Just one more reason I love them!)
Get new subscribers. Do this by sharing relevant and useful information.
Don’t ask people randomly to subscribe to your information.
Monitor what is being said about you and your company.
…Then join the conversation!
Find sponsors for your blog. No kidding!
Break news. If you follow me on twitter you know that After The Launch will soon be Click To Client. You did know that right? = )
Learn to become POWERFULLY succinct. If you can’t say it in 140 characters, well…then you just can’t say it!
Keep your Twitter name short whenever you can. Your twitter name counts within the 140 character limit.
Promote your conference or event. Keep it classy!
Showcase your work. Either by linking to it in your information, or providing a link in your twitter background.
Learn from people you admire. I do this on a daily basis, and it helps our business greatly!
Play a clean and fun joke. Wait until April fool’s day.
Get fitness help. I cannot begin to thank @fitbizwoman for all the help she has given me! I didn’t realize virtual physical training was doable. It is.
Find inspiration. Follow @InspireMeToday
Promote your new product or ebook. Again-be classy. Content marketing! Follow @JuntaJoe to learn more.
Host contests.
Participate in contests.
Find and pitch bloggers who cover what you offer.
Build relationships with bloggers (this is priceless if you own a business of any sort!).
Getting votes. Again, no kidding!
Get flight information and travel tips. Follow @Southwest @JetBlue.
Redistribute content.
Take questions from the audience whenever you participate in a teleseminar or conference.
Build a fan base! Better yet..build a community. You do know how to do this right? Just to be sure follow @ChrisBrogan.
Direct traffic. A huge percentage of traffic to this site comes from Twitter alone.
Online Visibility! Twitter is a GREAT way to build your personal brand. An entire persona can be created just by following someone’s tweet.
Find new people to follow just by following those you respect and trust. This is powerful networking at its best!
Share tips that further establish your expertise. If you follow me, you will often get online marketing tips and Facebook tips.
Say please and thank you. Yea, I know you only get 140 characters but a little politeness goes a long. Pls = please. TY = thank you.
Don’t use questionable pictures of yourself. If there are kids in the background, parents twittering may un-follow you.
Don’t feel like you have to respond to every tweet. In fact, don’t. Only respond to tweets that you have something genuine to add to.
Get comfortable with the fact that there IS a lot of noise on twitter. What can you do about it? Don’t add to it! : )
Get your particular group members to sign up with Twitter. Then use it to keep in touch with them and trade quick updates. The groups don’t even have to be formal. Neighborhood carpool, PTA, and office mates all fly! Check out http://grouptweet.com/ to keep it organized.
Raise funds for your non-profit. Follow @JohnHaydon for more tips and tricks!
Evangelize. Anything. Do it in the proper spirit. Please.
Track packages from major carriers. @trackthis
Reminders - @timer
Toot your own horn. Go ahead, you deserve it!
Don’t toot your own horn too much. Keep it classy, remember? : )
Let others toot your own horn for you. Keep in touch with your clients on Twitter.
Be careful what you tweet. It NEVER goes away-even if you hit the little trash icon.
Don’t tweet what you wouldn’t want your boss, your mother, or your kid to see. You get the idea.
Be there for someone having a rough day. Empathy made easy courtesy of Twitter. Watch @EvansDave to learn how to do it well!
Get ideas for your next blog post. Just sit back and observe!
Get ideas for a new product or service. A marketplace full of people just talking! All you have to do is listen and observe their pain. Then come up with a solution!
Share! If you find great links, great articles, great anything- share. More often than not, your followers will appreciate you.
Don’t worry about your status update count or your follower number. QUALITY over QUANTITY!
Un-follow freely. You don’t have to feel bad about un-following negative people…or spam bots!
Don’t be a spam bot. Be a person! Let your personality shine through.
Strive to provide value in every tweet. Think before you tweet!

One More Little Thing

Steve Mettee of Quill Driver Books, sent me this story about
one of his authors:

She is vacationing in Hawaii so she contacted a Barnes & Noble store
and set up an author signing event. She then contacted the hotel she
is staying at and asked them to place an event flyer in the morning
newspapers they leave at the door of their guests. They agreed!

Her book has been out for at least 4 years and it is still selling strongly.
Wonder why.

I love the idea of having a hotel stuff a flyer inside their morning
newspapers. What a wonderful way to reach hundreds of potential
customers (strangers in town) who may be looking for something to do.

In a later email, Steve told me that his author also went to the hotel
next door and go them to place flyers in their newspapers as well! Now
that's an author a publisher has to love.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


by Shirley Bahlmann
It was a year and a half ago when I got the urge to contribute to the local city park so that my family's names could be sandblasted in bricks for ever and ever or until a meteor strike, whichever comes first. I know I won't get any blessings in heaven for having my name on my contribution. My Heavenly home may be a few bricks short. It took a looooong time for us to be firmly entrenched underfoot in the new park's sidewalk, but now I'm proud to announce that the Bahlmann's are officially a bunch of blockheads.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Speaking of Really Great Books

Speaking of creating really great books, here's some fun material.

Every year, English teachers from across the country submit their most amusing similes and metaphors gleaned from high school essays. Here are some of the winners from 2007:

• He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

• She grew on him like she was a colony of E.Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

• She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

• Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

• John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

• Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

• The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

• It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

• He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Promote your book

Thanks to all of you who gave me great suggestions for the author event in Salt Lake. There were about 100 authors there. Some we knew, but most we didn't. We had a great time talking about books, great books, and really great books and what it take to write them, publish them, and sell them.

I don't think there is anything I love talking about more. I really want to answer your comments later in the week, but I thought I'd give you a short list of books I'm coming up with to learn about book promotion.

For many years I've suggested three mainstays: 1001 Ways to Market your Books by John Kremer. John as been at it a long time and he keeps his book updated. It is now in its sixth edition. The most practical book I've read is Jump Start your Book Sales by Tom and Marilyn Ross. The suggestions it has are the ones you're most likely to get done. The third one is Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Michael Larsen. Of course, Rick is the book guy of the bunch.

I've added a few more lately that I think you'll get a lot from: The Complete Guide to Book Publicity by Jodee Blanco. She was heavy into PR and can give you good tips. The book was written in 2004, but is now in its second edition. Three more on our shelves are The making of a Bestseller, Hill and Power; The complete Guide to Book Marketing by Cole; and The Savvy Authors Guide to Book Publicity, by Carroll & Graf.

As I was looking down the list of book publicity bestsellers on Amazon this morning I saw a few more I think we'll order today: The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Many of you know her. She's from here in our neck of the woods.

With the ever-developing internet, we need to stay up with the following books: Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing, by Steve Weber; Guerilla Marketing on the Internet by Jay Conrad Levinson, et al; The New Influencers by Paul Gillin; and Marketing to the Social Web, by Larry Weber.

One more I'm going to throw in is Word of Mouth Marketing—How Smart Companies Get People Talking.

I'd love to know if any have read any of these books and have done reviews. I'll post reviews as I plow through them.

Thanks again for such great suggestions for last week and happy reading. As always, please comment so I know if I'm doing any good. In the end it is really only writers who truly make a difference. I'll post again on Wednesday to answer your questions.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Two Ladies in Red

by Shirley Bahlmann
It was with great anticipation that I hurried to get ready for our author visit last Tuesday in Ephraim, Utah. I flung my "Eeyore University" t-shirt on the bed and pulled on a classic black t-shirt and festive red cotton vest. I thought Christmas colors would be appropriate for greeting the author of "The Santa Letters."
When Stacy Gooch Anderson popped out of her car, I saw that she wore a beautiful shimmering red blouse. I love sparkles. She looked gorgeous. I had to have my picture taken with her! (I know it's blurry, but you don't see any wrinkles on me, do you? DO YOU? That's what I thought. Boy, am I ever tall... I hope I remembered my 24-hour deodorant.)
It was delightful to have Stacy speak to my writing group first, and then to the community who gathered in the conference room. (I didn't get to hear that one, since I was rescuing my son from his locked car at work twelve miles away.) Stacy sold 35 books to grateful attendees, and handed out door prizes she brought with special messages on each one, putting us all in the Christmas spirit even though it was before Halloween!
Lastly, she and her husband, Brad, insisted on helping me carry things to my car, even though it was 9:00 p.m. before they left for home. Ho, ho, ho. They live what's in Stacy's book. And I was privileged to meet them both.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fantastic News

by Rebecca Talley

Usually, "fantastic news" means I'm pregnant. When I gathered my children around the dinner table and had my two oldest children on speaker phone, that's what they all expected to hear. I'd love to have a newborn baby to cuddle and snuggle, but my "fantastic news" is about a different kind of baby. The one you all understand. A book. I'm happy to announce that CFI has accepted my next manuscript and I'm hoping for a publication date in late summer or early fall.

We're all very excited, even though a book doesn't have that intoxicating newborn smell :).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Author Seminar

I'm speaking at a fairly good-sized Author event next Wednesday. I put a few things together then I thought you might give me some significant input. What do authors really want to know from a publisher? What do you really wish you had known long ago? What piece of the puzzle is (or was) the hardest for you to find? If you could change one thing in the publishing world, what would it be? Any other suggestions?

Thanks for your comments. I really do enjoy coming here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


By Lee Ann Setzer

This post is about Christmas already, but it’s not my fault.

So, I’m walking through a department store. It’s not Halloween yet, but they have lighted-up Christmas trees and walls of decorations. Appalling, yes. Unusual so far, no.

Here’s what got me: prominently displayed on the endcap were dozens of boxed-up “Charlie Brown Christmas trees.” You know, the one from the movie with a couple little tufts of needles and one big, red, ball? The tree that wasn’t made of tinsel. The “sincere” tree. With a little love and attention, it bloomed into a lovely little tree just right for the Christmas pageant.

The “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” in a box is, of course, artificial, featuring little tufts of plastic needles and a genuine big, red ball. There’s one other difference between this tree and the one in the movie. If you give this product the attention it deserves, slivers of it will reach orbit upon application of appropriate amounts of explosives.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Talent: Destroyed by a Vacuum

by Rebecca Talley

I have very few talents. I don't sing, dance, act, or sew. I'm not very crafty and I don't score high on the compassionate scale. I don't draw, paint, or write music. I don't play an instrument and while I played sports in high school, I wasn't amazing (I was good at basketball because I was tall, not because I could jump). But, I do pride myself on knowing how to change a poopy diaper, wipe boogers off my children (and the wall), and clean my house. Apparently, the cleaning house part isn't a talent after all, or so I was told.

Let me see if you can answer this question. What is more annoying than a vacuum salesman?

Any guesses?

Answer: Nothing.

Let me start at the beginning. A company called a few weeks ago and asked me to take a short consumer survey. I agreed and answered several simple questions. The next week, a representative from the same company called to say that because I'd answered the survey, my name was entered into a drawing and I'd won a $500 gift certificate to an online store (with Christmas around the corner, I thought this sounded like a good thing). The rep then told me that in order to redeem said certificate I had to participate in a presentation about an air purifier and share my opinion about the product. I was assured that it involved no sales whatsoever, and all I needed to do was answer some questions about the product after a short 30 minute presentation.

Since we have allergies, I'd considered buying an air purifier and was interested to see what this company produced so I agreed.

The salesman arrived with two large boxes. I asked him to do the presentation in the library but he insisted on going into the living room. Strike one.

He pulled out the "air purifier" that freakishly resembled a vacuum cleaner. Oh, because it was a vacuum cleaner. Now, I don't know about you, but when a company lies to me about the product they're selling, it's a big "no go" for me. Strike two.

He continued on with his presentation telling me multiple times that my house was filthy and nasty and I obviously didn't know how dirty it was. (So, you see, my cleaning talent flew right out the window). He told us how I was putting my family's health in danger and destroying our carpet (well, he did have to change his tactic to include hardwood because we have no carpet on the middle level). After 2 HOURS (sorry, didn't mean to yell, but really, 2 hours, during bedtime, come on) he gave us the high pressure sales technique designed to guilt us into buying a $3000 vacuum cleaner. Seriously. Strike three.

We finally convinced him that though we have several thousands, possibly even millions of dollars lying (or is it laying) around the house, we would prefer to sink that extra money into the Rolls Royce we're planning to purchase. He was visibly unhappy with our choice to pass on this exceptional deal.

He did give us our certificate and, surprise, when we went to redeem it, we found out that, indeed, we must pay a "shipping and handling fee" for each product. Now maybe I was born at night, but it wasn't last night and when the shipping and handling fees far exceed the value of the item, I become ever so slightly suspicious and greatly annoyed.

This company lied to get a salesman in my house. They misrepresented the product. The product seemed to be decent enough, but $3000? With the cost of living so high at the moment? Come on. Then the whole gift certificate was a total sham.

So beware of phone callers who claim to just want to conduct a short consumer survey. Before you know it, you may be subjected to losing your very last talent!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good Authoring Series – Using Gravitational Pull to Master Your Promotional Role

Here's on more nice article I found. Lyle

By Michael Drew - Oct 15 , 2008

Your ability to out-market competing authors depends on your ability to bond with potential readers. Similar to a new parent, you want to build familiarity and establish trust early on. By responding to your target audience’s collective cry for content, you can establish trust while drawing them deeper down the gravity well to book sales.

That’s where you want people. Way down deep at the bottom of your gravity well, where the pull is strongest. Get them there, and they can’t help but buy your book. It’s the rational next step. But you can’t just expect them to take a leap of faith into the waiting arms of some unknown author they’ve never heard of. You have to create a path that feels safe to descend by providing them with a trail of enticing content along the way.

Using a syndication service to distribute audio recordings, video presentations, or blogposts to popular social media sites is a good start. There’s no dangerous commitment there, just the small investment of time it takes to view your content. If they find you interesting, perhaps they’ll click the link back to your website, where there are more goodies to entice them.

Can you feel the pull getting stronger? Now people are browsing around your ‘online store’ to see what you have to offer. Do you think maybe some of them would be willing to sign up for your free e-newsletter or attend your free webinar? If so, you most likely have converted a future book buyer or even a word-of-mouth evangelist.

Hopefully, I’ve given you the big-picture perspective on how to create a subtle, yet inescapable, gravity well to book sales. The idea is to pull your target audience one step at a time into that well by responding to their collective cry for content in a variety of ways, with gradually deepening levels of commitment. Each step they take is an indication of the growing familiarity and trust they have in you as their primary content caregiver.

Now grab a shovel and start digging that well. It’s time to bury the competition.

PS—You might be interested to know that I have just started one of those syndication services I talked about here. It’s called Promote a Book Media, and it uses a proprietary methodology to broadcast your promotional content to a HUGE audience—faster and more consistently—than any other online syndicator. Check it out. It just might turn out to be the smartest thing you’ve done all day.

Questions about creating a gravity well for book sales may be directed to Michael R. Drew at the Austin, Texas, headquarters of Promote A Book: 512-858-0040. You can also contact Michael via email at michael@promoteabook.com.

Give the media what it needs.

Here's a tip that came across my desk this morning. Simple, but necessary!

Book promotion tip: Give the media what it needs. Usually, what the producer of a radio show (presuming the producer of the radio show has scheduled a phone interview with an author) needs is: the author's phone number (and, perhaps, a backup number), a media kit, and a copy of the book.

My Smiley Band Got Camera Shy

by Shirley Bahlmann
My smiley wristband is gone. It didn't die a natural death, either. It slipped away when Channel 14 KJAZZ came to film me in my native element for an October 24 TV spot. It was the segment where the camera guy suggested a close-up shot of me reaching my hand into the Manti Library History cabinet to pull out an old book. The smiley band stared up at me in horror, it's plastic-y yellow smiley faces wrinkled with age and fear. "Let me gooooo!" it wailed.
So I did. Out of the kindness of my heart, I ripped that little fellow free.
If you watch the TV segment this Friday, October 24 at 8:00 a.m., you'll see him on my wrist when I'm telling stories to the children. But by the time we get to the research phase... the little fellow's gone to a better place.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Down Syndrome Awareness

By Rebecca Talley

In celebration of the National Down Syndrome Awareness Month I have created this video, Extra C. Please help me spread the message that every child is a gift, even if the wrapping is a little different.

The music was composed and played by C.S. Bezas, an incredibly talented and creative musician. Please visit her website www.csbezasmusic.com to hear more of her beautiful music.

As a thank you to all who spread this message and share this video, I will sponsor a contest and give away a copy of my book, Heaven Scent, to the winner.

In order to qualify for the contest you can post this video on your website and/or blog and/or make a comment on this video at YouTube and/or pass this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGO5wqldyAo to people on your email lists. Just leave a comment on this post, or email me, and let me know what you did to help spread this message and I'll enter you into the drawing. The contest will run until midnight October 24th.
On October 25th one of my kids will draw a name from those that qualify and you'll receive a signed copy of my book.

Thank you for helping me to change attitudes about Down syndrome. Enjoy the video.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reviews, Reviewers and Being Reviewed

As always, please let me know if this information is helpful. Keep writing. It's more important now than ever. Lyle

Five reviews out of thirty copies really is probably about average. It's sad, but with over 200,000 (Lyle: Actually, the number in 2007 was 417,000) new titles hitting the streets last year alone, it's hard for reviewers to take everything that's sent their way. And, though we may not want to think about it, sometimes the reviewer just doesn't like the book (personal taste and all that) and that reviewer may have an aversion to writing negative reviews. So, it doesn't get reviewed at all. As to the risk of sending out books that will not be reviewed, here are my thoughts:

1. Do your research. Whatever the topic/genre, look for venues that review your kind of book, in addition to the generic places. You increase your chances that way.

2. Query first. Send an email or postal mail with a press pack (i.e., cover shot, blurbs you have gotten, brief synopsis that does not give away the ending, etc.) and ask if they would be interested in reviewing the book.

3. Send out press releases, but don't rely on them. It's foolish to ignore the possibility, however slim, that someone will read a press release. However, don't waste a lot of time or money on this. Most unsolicited press releases go into the circular file (this from my newspaper friends.)

4. Write thank you notes to the reviewers who DO review your book, whether it's a great review or a so-so review. That makes them at least somewhat more receptive to your next book.

5. If you can make it work, offer to write a feature piece for your local paper or community paper, that somehow ties to your new book. That may, in turn, interest the reviewer onstaff in reading and reviewing your book. When I say a feature piece, I mean a short article that exploits some tie-in to a local place, person, legend, upcoming event, etc. If you wrote a book about Ireland, for example, maybe you'd want to write a feature piece about St. Patrick's Day and get in a mention or two of your book in the body of the piece. - Tony Burton

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Haunted Dog

By Shirley Bahlmann
Bibs was just four days old, a little black weiner with a small white dot between her shoulder blades, like she'd been touched by a ghost. (Just look at her spooky eyes!) I didn't really want a Border Collie, I was more interested in a cute little whisker dog like my cousins, Guy and Janette Rallison, have. But Bob and the boys would have none of that. We weren't sure Bibs was our puppy until we did "doggy tests" at five weeks old. All three boys chose her from the litter, and that was good enough for me.
When Bibs came to our house, she was too scared to sleep alone, so the boys hunkered down in their sleeping bags in her dog run. When the weather turned cold enough, they came inside and she stayed out.
When she first met our cats, they were all about the same size, but they wouldn't play nice. Sometimes our white-as-a-ghost cat, Dusty, would trot away to find a sunny spot and Bibs would happily give chase. Our black cat, Slick, never turned tail to Bibs. Even though Bibs grew to ten times his size, Dusty's the one who makes Bibs run.
The ghost touch has done other damage to Bibs' bravado. She's afraid to go in our living room, is afraid of the bathtub, blinking lights, and being behind closed doors. But worst of all, she's afraid of her dog feeder.
It's a terrific feeder that holds a whole bag of dog food with a lid to keep it clean and dry. We knew she wasn't fond of pushing open the little hinged door with her nose to get at her food, so we propped it open with a rock and thought we would live happily ever after.
Last month, Bibs was in our house when Bob asked, "Does she have any food?"
"I saw some in her feeding tray," I said. "Why?"
"She acts likes she's starving," he said.
It was true. She was doing more than vacuuming the kitchen floor, she was trying to root in the garbage can and stand up to the counter when she thought we weren't looking and attempting to open cupboards with her nose. So when I took her back outside, I inspected the feeder more closely. I found spider webs woven across the feeding tray. Was she scared of spiders, or had they set up shop there because she never her nose in to eat her food? When I opened the lid, it was chock full of dog food, clear to the top.
"Bibs!" I said. "I can't believe you're scared of your feeder!" She lowered her head between her white-spotted shoulders and wagged her tail in apology.
I took pity on the ghost-touched dog and scooped some food out for her.
I think we're going to dress her up as a werewolf for Halloween.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Power of Words

It's now what we write but HOW we write it that makes our words connect with readers.

The state of publishing. What is selling.

Here's some information from Wall Street Journal today on the state of publishing and its outlook for fall.

Sales: American Association of Publishers (AAP) Sales Flat in August; September General Slump

In August, net sales rose 0.6%  to $1.5 billion for 79 publishers that reported to the Association of American Publishers. Net sales through August have fallen 1.4% to $6.651 billion.

Sales of selected categories:

E-books leapt 82.9%, to $4.3 million.
Children's/YA paperback jumped 18.4% to $69.4 million.
Adult hardcover rose 9.2% to $100.9 million.
Professional and scholarly rose 3% to $99.8 million.
Adult paperback edged up 1.8% to $147.4 million.

Adult mass market fell 4.5% to $70.1 million.
Audiobooks wound back 6.9% to $11.9 million.
Children's/YA hardcover fell 9.3% to $96.4 million.
Religious books dropped 10.8% to $61.1 million.
University press paperback slid 13.9% to $9.8 million.
University press hardcover fell 17.8% to $6.4 million.


In September, sales at general retail stores sagged at most types of stores, even luxury retailers, as the financial crisis deepened. Warehouse clubs were the only segment that had solid gains in sales at stores open at least a year: BJ's sales rose 10.4%, Sam's Club was up 4.6%. Wal-Mart sales rose 2.4%.
By contrast, sales at Saks dropped 10.9%, and Nordstrom's was down 9.6%. Even some value stores with a less utilitarian feel had lower sales: Target dropped 3%. Kohl's was down 5.5% and Penney was off 12.4%

(Lyle's Comment) This gives you a general feel for the economy. As you notice, publishing is better off than the rest of the economy as a whole. CFI's sales through August are up 7% in spite of very heavy returns from Deseret Book.

Publishers generally do a little better than the economy in a slump. People are looking for entertainment, guidance and information. YOU'RE NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER. Keep writing. I'm looking for that best-selling book Monday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Santa's Secret" Stole My Heart

by Shirley Bahlmann
After reading this book, I no longer feel the need to make excuses for signing “Shirley Claus” on Christmas cards because “Santa’s Secret” tastefully binds the kindness of Santa Claus with the teachings of the Savior to align the two caring men on the same side of goodness and love.
I was crying by page 16. They were happy tears.
This book is so full of delightful passages that pop up like toffee in a candy bar that the whole thing is a delight to read. Well, okay, if you want to get picky, there are a half a dozen grammar challenged sentences, such as “I knew right away I’d forgot my glasses.” (It should be …forgotten my glasses…) but Christy told me this is to keep it true to the voice of the man who inspired this book.
Yes, this book is an even greater Christmas treasure because it’s based on true experiences of long-time Santa’s helper Phil Porter. It covers the reasons we shouldn’t judge another’s circumstance by what we see, and it aptly demonstrates how giving of yourself without asking for anything in return can be magical. I dare you to read it without needing a tissue. This book comes alive with instances of faith where tough, next-to-impossible situations work themselves out in realistic ways that still come across as blessings from heaven. It’s positively heart-warming to see how the spirit and love of Christmas flowed through so many hands, showing how we can all be part of the magic, even by small means. It’s amazing how little things can end up counting for so very much.
This book is a gift you can hold in your hands as well as your heart. My copy is bristling with notes for passages I wanted to share with you, but on second thought, you’ll like them better when you read this enchanting book yourself.

Shirley: Hey, Christy, it’s a little hard to tell by starlight, but those look like nice sandals you’re wearing.
Christy: Sh! Somebody might hear you.
Shirley: (looking around, then whispers) Who?
Christy: A highway robber.
Shirley: I don't see anyone. All I see is a wall.
Christy: Ancient Bethlehem’s city wall, to be exact.
Shirley: What are we doing outside? How do we get in?
Christy: Through the eye of a needle.
Shirley: Come again?
Christy: It’s a little opening by the city gate. Camels have to crawl through, but I can make it standing up. (Looks me up and down) You, oh freakishly tall one, might have to duck.
Shirley: So, we couldn’t have met here during daylight?
Christy: No. Tonight’s a special night. (Christy grins, her teeth shining white in the subdued light.)
Shirley: Okay, lead the way. Ooo, low ceiling, you weren’t kidding. Hey, I notice your book, “Santa’s Secret,” was written with Phil Porter. Who is he?
Christy: Phil is just a bus driver from Salem, Utah. But he has a special connection to this place.
Shirley: How did you meet him?
Christy: I work for a newspaper, the Spanish Fork News, and a few years ago I was assigned to interview him for a story in the Christmas Special Section. You see, Phil has been Santa Claus for 27 years now, and he has a unique perspective on the Christmas holiday.
Shirley: Ah, we’ve reached the city. Argh! A spotlight!
Christy: No, Shirley, that’s an exceedingly bright star.
Shirley: Oh. Now what do we do?
Christy: Come this way.
Shirley: Okay, I’ll follow along. What made you think of writing this book?
Christy: When I interviewed Phil, I was so touched and overwhelmed by the spirit of his stories, I approached him about coming together to write a novel. He said he'd been approached several times before--his stories are that good--but this time, the pieces just fell right. He is not a writer, but he is a story-teller, so he came to my house several times and I recorded his stories as he told them. I took those, and wove them together with a fictional "season" of Christmastime, to create a setting where his stories can take place. Some of what happens between him and his family in the book is fictional, and though he wanted to keep the names of his immediate family the same, all of the other names are changed. Almost everything else in the book is based on actual events. You really feel that when you read it, too. The stories ring with truth, and go right to the heart because they really happened.
Phil believes in Santa Claus in a different way than I've ever seen before. When he dresses in his Santa suit, he really "becomes" Santa. And because he takes his role so seriously, he has had many opportunities to offer help, comfort and love to people who are struggling during the holiday season. He's a true giver of real gifts.

Shirley: Oh, I must agree, I sensed that when I read it. Hey, what’s that up ahead?
Christy: A stable. I told you tonight was special. I wanted to meet you here on this night to see the real reason for Christmas.
Shirley: You don’t mean…
Christy: Yes. In that stable is born the Savior of the world.
Shirley: Wow. (Looking up) What’s that? I hear bells.
Christy: (Smiling) It’s Santa Claus.
Shirley: Here? Now? (Christy and Shirley watch as Santa lands his sleigh, takes off his hat, then walks into the stable and kneels beside the manger.) That is so awesome. Hey, doesn’t Santa Claus look a little like…?
Christy: Phil.
Shirley: Yeah. I love how they’re both on the same team. Thanks so much for bringing me here. You and Phil… and the Savior.
Christy: You’re welcome.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Political Ads

by Rebecca Talley

I'm always a little grouchy during election time because I get so tired of all of the political ads. It makes me think of the joke, "How do you know a politician is lying?" The answer, "His/Her lips are moving."

I'm sure there are honest politicians that do their best to serve, but it seems like we're inundated with so many negative political ads it's hard to figure out who is telling the truth.

We keep hearing about change, but what does that really mean? Change what? How?

Wouldn't it be nice if the candidates would create advertisements that indicated their plans for change and accurately portrayed their stands on the issues, instead of attacking the opponent? I've grown so weary of all the mud-slinging and name-calling, it makes me not want to vote at all.

I don't want to hear bad things about the other candidate, what I want to know is where each candidate stands on the issues that are important to me so I can cast an informed vote. I'd love to see ads that stick to the issues and aren't created simply to sully the names of the opponents.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Get up and do it!

Hey Guys, I did it! I finished the St. George Marathon. I didn't get the time I wanted, but I came so close I'm trying to figure out how to do it better next time. I discovered I could run 25 miles and be okay, but the last 1.2 nearly killed me (I still wonder if that is literally.) But coming within 96% of my goal on my first try, just made me a little more determined. My goal is not that far away.

I started wondering about us (you) as a group of writers. I can't get up each morning and run if I don't have an event that I'm looking forward to. It can be a 5k or 10k or 1/2. Aren't all of our goals about the same? We can't write day after day if we aren't looking forward to publishing and especially to reaching readers.

I can't beat 2:22 minutes (Saturday's winning time). But I like knowing someone did and I enjoy looking at the large area that I have for improvement. Even though I'm getting older, I know I can do better than I did Saturday.

I thought it would be fun to look at the earnings of the world's top writers. What do you think?

This year's Forbes list includes:

J.K. Rowling ($300 million)
James Patterson ($50 million)
Stephen King ($45 million)
Tom Clancy ($35 million)
Danielle Steel ($30 million)
John Grisham (tied at $25 million)
Dean Koontz (tied at $25 million)
Ken Follett ($20 million)
Janet Evanovich ($17 million)
Nicholas Sparks ($16 million)

It's not that I think we should be motivated by dollars. But those dollars represent readers and the influence each of those authors has.

What can each of us do to come closer to those amounts? I'd be thrilled if one of my authors earned 3.1% of what Nicholas Sparks did. What can we do to get more readers? To produce better product? To make it more effective?

Every Monday morning when Lee and I talk, we just imagine that today is the day, or this week is the week, that one of our authors is going to submit the book that is going to be just that much better—the book that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be talking about.

We may not be the first ones to the finish line, but nothing happens unless we just get up and do it. I like one of Lee's favorite quotes: "Endless patience brings immediate results." Keep at it! Maybe this is the magic Monday.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mo or No-Mo?

by Brittany Mangus

Can you spot a Famous Mormon when you see one? Test out your sweet skills by playing "Mo or No-Mo?" on my blog! All you have to do is look at 5 photos and:

1) Tell me the name of the person
2) If they are a Mo or a No-Mo.

You can play for a chance to win either a Salt Lake Temple recommend holder or a handmade LDS oil vial, made from olive wood from Bethlehem.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Future for Book Promotion

by Rebecca Talley

It’s amazing how technology has advanced in the last 25 years. When I was in high school, no one had a cell phone or a personal computer. We all had to use landlines to speak with our friends and we used typewriters for our research papers. Yes, gasp, we had to actually know how to type (or at least know how to use the correction tape properly).

I remember my grandpa’s old typewriter and how the “e” always looked like an “o.” When I received a sleek new manual typewriter as a gift, I was thrilled. I was even happier when I was able to purchase a snazzy electric typewriter with the correction tape already loaded—talk about up-to-the-date technology.

I can still remember the papery thin feel of the onionskin paper and the ding when I needed to return the carriage on my manual machine. I remember the clicking of the keys and the pinging as the metal letters hit against the page. I can still hear the soft clicking as I moved the roller to load the paper. Of course, I also remember the frustration of finding a typo or misspelling and trying desperately to correct it.

When I was finishing my senior year at BYU, my husband tried to convince me to use a computer. I refused. I wasn’t comfortable with a computer and couldn’t see how it was any easier than using a typewriter—silly me. After several months, he finally persuaded me to try a computer and when I saw the ease of the “delete” key, I was sold.

Technology has come a long way. True, it can be used irresponsibly, but it can also provide us with a wealth of information at our fingertips as well as connect us to people all over the world. When I first started writing, I had no groups, no connection to other writers. I had no one to ask questions. I knew nothing about publishing. I didn’t even know how to really find the needed information so I kind of bumbled around in the dark hoping to figure it all out.

Then, the internet hit and, boom, I could access information from my computer in my own home. It didn’t even matter that I lived in the middle of a hay field. I found groups. I was suddenly connected to the world.

Because of the new technology and the internet, authors can do what time, distance, and money prevented them from doing pre-internet. Authors can now take advantage of blogging to create a web presence, create websites, participate in blog book tours, join online groups, ask questions in forums, and promote books by simply attaching a link on all outgoing email. We can promote our work while sitting in our pajamas. How cool is that?

The newest tool to promote our work is now on a site called YouTube. A friend of mine, author Marsha Ward, has created her own book trailer for The Man from Shenandoah. This is the future for authors to promote their books online. See what you think.

And to show you a little different approach, here is a YouTube by LDS author Jewel Adams promoting her fantasy novel, The Journey.

Even if technology seems difficult or foreign, it’s definitely in our best interest to embrace the new ways of communicating with our friends and with those who may want to read our books.

I’ll let you know if I ever fully embrace it and have a YouTube on Heaven Scent.